Sunday 31 December 2006

Holiday Cleanup

The first rubbish and recycling collection post Christmas has come and gone and the bin is already full. I was appalled at the size of the pile of cardboard, plastic and paper that my family had made over the holiday weekend. I just don't know what to do about it.....We made sure to recycle everything our council collects. I'm just not sure I trust the council to do the recycling bit. If anyone has some ideas, let me know!

Abigail has made a full recovery: no fever, no earache, no drippy nose, no coughing. Seb has not been so lucky and this morning has been complaining of earche. The good news is this is about the time Abigail started to get better so we expect a full recvery in the next few days......just as the holiday ends! Oh joy!

This marks my last post in December and an anniversary of sorts: one month of non-stop fun of posting fever! I've managed to capture the events in my family's life, mundane and extraordinary as I set out to do. Some love it (thanks Mom & Steph)! Some are afraid of sharing this much of their life with others (including strangers) and are shocked/amazed/horrified that I chose to....but then again I've always lived my life as an open book. I have nothing to hide and hve no fear of others discovering who I am inside and out. Perhaps I am naive but I believe in the overwhelming goodness and doubt very much someone would hunt down my family and hurt them. But thanks for your concern. Some have been offended. Apparently I have not quite mastered the art of sarcasm which the British so admire in themselves and some have found my humour wanting. Oh well.......I make myself laugh!

Not sure how I will carry on once I start back at work on the 2nd January. I hardly have time to shower when working and managing the household but I will do my best. I didn't quite meet all my goals for my month off work but I did get quite a bit of reading done. I did watch some films (none very good....or good at all) and Marc swears I will not be allowed to go to the video store unsupervised ever again. I did lots of crafts with the children but my cupboards are woefuly unorganised and I'm afraid I didn't finish a single book.

Why is it that lightbulbs always burnout all over the house at exactly the same time? Why do all the toy batteries expire at the same time? Why is it that all the bathrooms run out of loo roll at the same time. Why is it that all household cleaning products empty at exactly the same time? hmmmmm, things to think about......

Be safe when out and about this evening. Or even staying at home. Most people die in their own homes. So whatever you do, be safe. We'll speak to you in the next year.

Saturday 30 December 2006

And the Parties Continue-Without Us

Yesterday we were invited round to some neighbours home for drinks and dinner. Thanks to Keith and Adrienne for a lovely evening. The chidren had a great time eespecially when they all decided to get out the box of costumes (check out Abigail's shoes). Seb isn't in the photo because he still isn't feeling well and just sat around being grumpy. We unfortunately left quite early since he was so gfunder the weather. As a result the plans we had for this afternoon had to be cancelled and we are having an inside day. Both children are still barking with coughs and running slight temperatures. At least Abigail isn't complaining about her earche. Just as well as the monsoons seems to have arrived. It is dumping rain on us and the wind is blowing a gale. Hmmmm, doesn't feel much like Christmas!

Friday 29 December 2006

The Panto Bunch

Thanks to the other Mums, Tara, Elen, & Sally for joining in on the fun!


It is a Christmas tradition in the UK to go to a panto performance over the Christmas holidays. You can read about it here PANTO. This is a tradition which I had succeessfully avoided until this year. The children (specifically Abigail) had finally reached an age where I thought she might sit still long eneough (and it was longer than I thought it would be).

Pantos can range from very professional productions with C-list celebrities giving guest performances (with fairly hefty ticket prices to go with it) or amatuer theatre in local villages ( with lower ticket prices). Patrick Ewing (from Dallas fame) is in one in Woking. He must be broke!

Given that I wasn't sure what my children (or I would think) I opted for the amatuer performance in a village not far from ours called Sunninghill. We got a couple other children from Seb's school (with siblings and mums) to go along with us. We saw Cinderella which I have now learned (courtesy of Wikipedia) is the most popular of all pantos. We had a great time and the children really enjoyed it with the exception of Abigail who covered her eyes and trembled each time the fox came on stage. I am sure I have scarred her for life.

I have some photos of the children dutifully awaiting the start of the performance. Unfortunately I am experiencing some technical difficulties with my photo uploads. Not so much technical difficulties as much as our dog, Bailey, ate the cable that connects the Mac and the Windows PC to the screen and allows everything to be connected at once. Marc would have liked to have killed the dog. Bailey has been laying on his bed with his tail between his legs for the last hour or so whilst Marc dutifully goes off to find a new cable. As soon as said cable has been restored I will load up the photos and you can see the bunch of them. they behaved so well and we all had laods of fun.

We had a rather strange start to the day. I have awoke every morning since Boxing Day no later than 4 am and could not get back to sleep. I then fall back to sleep about 6 am just before the children get up. This morning Marc let me sleep until I awoke at 10 am only for me to find out that Seb had gone back to bed about 9 am and is still there. it is nearly 11 am as this goes to press. Both he and Abigail have had a barky cough for the last week and i know he was coughing thorughout the night. i reckon he just didn't sleep well.

Thursday 28 December 2006

Fresh Air

I always find that a couple days spent indoors without benefit of fresh air leaves my head (and body) full of cobwebs. The Christmas holiday run left me with a fuzzy head and achy body not to mention a house looking like a tornado had run through here (yeah, a tornado named Sebabby). After doing a bit of tidying in the morning, we met up with John, Mary and her brother, Mike, and went for a walk. We did have one puppy and two small children in tow which I do believe our walking tour guide (John) forgot and went a bit further than was probably advisable. Bailey feel asleep in the car before we had even dropped him off back home.

Abigail fell asleep before she got to have any food and Seb fell asleep in the car on the way home. I felt better for the walk. The brisk air cleared out my head and did a world of good for my achy body. At the very least I feel less guilty about the overindulgences of the holiday. I suspect I require several more longer and more challenging walks/runs to really work that off.

Abigail's earache is continuing to trouble her and we took her to the doctor's yesterday evening. We've got some antibiotics and if the pain doesn't let up in the next few days then I will fill the prescription. It's so hard to decide what to do in these cases. I don't want to be held responsible for the mutation of a superbug and I want my children to have the benefit of antibiotics should they truly need them but I do feel that as overscribe and overmedicate our children. We after all only want what's best for them and no on likes to see their child in pain.

A big thank you to Mary for serving up a lovely "tea" yesterday. For those Americans out there, this is a meal time about 3-4 in the afternoon and consists of little sandwiches/sausages/cake and of course the obligatory cup of tea (or two). It is a perfect way to end a walk. We were joined at tea by Simon, Marc's cousin, and Dorothy, Mary's Mum. Simon has just publisheed a very important book. Link to Book

I really enjoy the discussions and debates we get into around their table and yesterday was no exception with a lengthy discussion about why people destroy bus stops. We just don't get it. From my point of view, many people think of government as some sort of conspiracy theory. They forget that their parents and neighbours (and themselves) paid for that bus stop with their tax dollars and very bus stop that needs to be replaced will come out of their own pockets either through increased taxes or a rise in bus fare (both of which they will complain about not making the link). It is much the same when people who want low prices for gas and electricity but then complain when the call centres are moved to India in an attempt to lower the cost and ultimately the price of the utility. Once again, they don't get the link. This is that whole action/consequence thing. Grrrrrrah! My head is clearing!

Wednesday 27 December 2006

Mummy Sick

Yesterday was definitely a "down day". Veda and Matthew left to visit John and Mary quickly then head off back to the Isle of Wight just after 11. Wicked Uncle Mike (aka Scottish Mike) came round just after 1:00. We had left over roast beef and Swiss sandwiches with dips and chips for lunch. As is the tradition we watched Casablanca (one of the best films ever) and played games with the children. I taught Sebatian to play checkers (a bit too well since he beat me). Seb, Abby, & I played Pick-Up-Sticks. Abby was surprisingly good and Sebastian beat me at that as well. Marc and Seb (with Mike's support) played Battleship. Marc won that one but I think it was a close game. Seb continues to work on his Nintendo skills but gets quite frustrated still and doesn't really understand that losing just means you have to practice some more. Now there is a life lesson.

Unfortunately, neither Abigail or Mummy are at the top of their game. Abigail woke up yesterday morning with a fever and spent all of the afternoon sleeping it off. By mid afternoon my body was feeling feverish and achy all over. After drugging both of us with suitable amounts of ibuprofen and acetaminophen we went off to bed. Abby woke in the wee hours of the morning but fell back asleep in Mummy & Daddy's bed. Mummy was also ill this morning and Daddy kindly let me get some additional hours of sleep whilst he went off to feed the children breakfast and tidy up the kitchen. Abigail seems much better this morning and is annoying Sebastian (which is the job of little sisters). I don't feel 100% but imagine that the ibuprofen will help when it kicks in.

I'm making the children croissants and we hope to go for a walk with John, Mary & Simon later this afternoon. The fresh air will do me good (or kill me).

Tuesday 26 December 2006

Boxing Day

What a fabulous Christmas we had! I hope everyone had a great day as well. Marc's mum (Veda) and one of his brothers (Matthew) came up on Christmas Eve (for Abigail's birthday party) and stayed for the festivities of Christmas Day. The tree was threatened with tipping if anymore presents were placed under it. Marc made a most amazing Prime Rib (cooked to perfection) which we devoured. Veda brought the Christmas crackers which she had custom made at home with individualised surprises inside. She also brought these fantastic confetti poppers which create a huge mess but are so much fun festive. I don't actually mind cleaning up the mess!

One of the best things about England is the day after Christmas called Boxing Day. You can read about the origins of the holiday at Mostly, it gives you a chance to recover from the over indulgences of the previous day and/or take a walk. I like to reflect on the day before.

My family and I are very fortunate. We live in a part of the world where we are free and there is usually justice. We are able to have dreams and usually realise them with the only obstacles being our minds and energy. Whilst there is a threat of terror, I consider a more prevalent and immediate threat to be global warming. I find comfort in the fact that I can participate in the solution of that more than I can in the solution to terror. We are healthy if overweight by and large due to the bounty that life has given us (and our own laziness). We have access to adequate and affordable health care and I have no fear that I would not be able to afford to treat a life threatening emergency to the limits of medical technology today. Our ignorance is limited only by that which we have not yet learned and are willing and able to learn more. No one tells my daughter she cannot go to school or what she must wear. My son can be Prime Minister (or possibly President of the USA) if he so desires....or a plumber or an artist or an actor or an accountant or whatever his passion is. He is taught to have respect for all living beings including his elders (and the value of doing so). My husband can run his own business and is control of his own financial destiny. I can work my way to the top (or not) if I chose. We can practice our own version of faith. We are not afraid of being killed by our neighbours. We do not live in a tornado alley or hurricane zone.

Yesterday when we sat down to our Christmas dinner, I was overwhelmed by the joy of having a husband I love and am so happily married to; 2 children who are clever, happy, independent and on their way to growing into responsible, uniquely contributing members of society; a beautiful cozy home which keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer and dry the year long (it is England after all); nutritious and delicious food to fill our tummies and sustain us throughout the year.

Life is good!

A visit to Flickr will give you our family photos. Link on the left!

Monday 25 December 2006

Christmas Morning

My childhood memories of Christmas morning are just as vivid as they are of the night before. When we got home from our celebrations at Nanny's house, all 5 of us children would pile into one bed: head to toes alternating. Well, Santa wouldn't come until we were all fast asleep and the probability of that happening with all 5 of us in one bed just was not high. Eventually, we would drift off to our own beds because we didn't want it to be our fault if the cherry-nosed one had to detour round our home.

We inevitably awoke before the crack of dawn and made our way very very quietly (as quiet as 5 children can be in the dead of night) down the stairs to the family room. Santa would have delivered a major present and placed our stocking next to it (just in case there was some confusion and any of my brothers wanted to argue over which present belonged to whom). It was amazing the restraint we showed by going through the stockings first and then stopping to appreciate/enjoy/celebrate the bounty Santa has delivered. All of us would then settle in (for a long winter's nap?) and commence discussions on when we felt would be the appropriate time to wake mom and dad.

Once mom and dad had been awoken then the phone call went in to my grandma and grandpa (my mother's parents). They lived just south of us and would need a good 30 minutes to get to our house and we felt it very important that they arrive as soon as possible after my parents so as not to delay any present opening. My grandma and grandpa would arrive with bags and boxes full of presents which we would add to our pile under the tree and the waiting was over.

The present opening itself was all a bit of a paper hurricane with bows and ribbons flying everywhere. I mean, can you imagine 5 children opening presents all at once? What wonderful chaos!

My mother always made a great breakfast: fried eggs, bacon, toast. We would then take stock of what each one of us had received and restack the presents under the tree unopened. Dinner was a huge affair and meant we got to eat in the "dining room" using the good china and crystal. The table always looked superb. I'll never forget the year my brother, Shelby, picked up his paper napkin and asked if this was one that he could use or did it have to be saved until next year. We all fell about laughing our heads off and every year we pulled that napkin out of the drawer and handed it to Shelby. I wonder what happened to that napkin? There was inevitably the culinary disaster (ah, so this is where I learned to cook....) like the time my mother went to get the jello mould out and the whole thing went down the sink drain.

Once I became an adult (in age only) but before I was married and had children I used to travel the world on Christmas. I've spent Christmas in Australia, South Africa, Switzerland and many other places. Some of those memories are good ones and some are not so good. I always missed my family.

Now we make our own memories with our own families. I love the fact that Sebastian was up a few mornings ago wanting to put all of his presents in a pile (for ease of opening, I suspect, or possibly to compare his pile to that of his sisters) and the mere mention of the imminent arrival of the Bearded One inspires the best behaviour in a nearly 3 yr old.

The Clare-Panton Family wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope this holiday brings peace (even if only temporarily) to people everywhere, joy where there is sadness, and hope where there is despair. When you are busy making your memories this holiday season, take a moment to savour the moment and remember Christmases past, present, and future.

Sunday 24 December 2006

Christmas Eve Memories

This time of year is so full of joy: reading wishful Christmas lists, seeing children's faces light up at the magic of Christmas tree lights, hearing sweet little voices sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas or Rudolph of the Red-Nosed Reindeer, witnessing my husband struggle through the gift selection process.

My childhood memories of Christmas are so vivid. Growing up, my family was big on tradition and everyone year you knew what fun the holiday held. On Christmas Eve we would go to Nanny's house and gather all my uncles, aunts, and cousins. In later years the house swelled under the weight of her great grandchildren and on more than one occasion a few non-blood members joined our motley crue when they had no where else to go but they couldn't have been in for more of a treat. The gathering was never at a set time and throughout the afternoon people would arrive (usually depending on how much last minute gift shopping needed to be done). The tree was in the basement (year round in later years - just covered up with a sheet when it was not December as it was a bit much for Nanny to put it up and take it down as she grew a bit older). Nothing else was too much for her. She worked very hard to make sure we had a special night with her.

Everyone else pitched in making the various nibbles for grazing: cream cheese/jalapeno filled tortilla rolls, veg with dip, crisps/chips, cold cuts/cheeses. But no one filled up too much for the grand prize was a bowl (or two or three) of her amazing Oyster Stew. Now, many had married into the family and not all partook of the delicacy (she offered chili for the non-oyster fans) but it was an event not to be missed. Once all the eating was done, all the dishes had to be done before we could descend the steps and start the decimation of the wrapping paper. You've never seen a kitchen cleaned so fast. Even the men picked up a dish towel now and again.

No one really paid all that much attention to what they received themselves (although Steph's nipple warmers were one gift that really stood out). The most joy was derived from watching Nanny open the presents given to her by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It didn't matter how big or small she showed the same tearful eyes as she passed out her ever gracious thanks. I'll never forget the year she received a television from each of her sons - 3 televisions. She was just as happy with the third one as she was with the first one.

For dessert there was rice pudding with the hidden almond which it seems my dad always found but I think he probably cheated - not sure how. And then the popcorn balls! Oh my gosh, what I wouldn't give right now for one of those popcorn balls. She made them in red or green and they were just the perfect consistency. I'm afraid this tradition has left us when my Nanny left us. She tried to teach my sister how to make them and god knows, I watched her make them dozens of times but can we get them anywhere near as good as hers? Heck!

She always had a great selection of Christmas candy that she had made herself in the months leading up to the holiday season. Dishes of sweet treats would be strategically placed around the house to tempt you at just the right moment. You'd pop it into your mouth and moan with the pleasure of all that care and attention given to her family. She made every one's favourite every year but wasn't afraid to try new recipes out now and again.

I miss my Nanny so much this time for year. There was seldom a question for which she didn't have an answer.....maybe not the answer you hoped for but an answer nonetheless. One year my husband (newly married) requested a recipe on how to do Prime Rib. Arriving in the post a week later was a how-to on everything prime rib. She'd written a bit herself that explained how she did it but she had also included newspaper and magazine article cut outs. My husband now cooks a mean Prime Rib every Christmas after reviewing everything she sent us. I see her hand writing and it brings tears to my eyes. I can't ring her telephone anymore for a refresher on how to make this or that or how to fix this or that or what I should say/do about this or that. And I don't get to see her face light up when she opens my pressie anymore.

Every year on the drive home from Nanny's house to our own home we would listen to the car radio for the local update on Santa's progress delivering his packages to all the deserving children. Technology has progressed and instead of tuning in the radio my family here in the UK pull the NORAD page up on the web and watch Santa's progress across the skies of the world . I watched my children's amazement last year as I saw the belief in Santa grow. Some traditions die, some change and some live on just the way they were.
PS Happy 3rd Birthday Abigial!!!!!!!

Saturday 23 December 2006

Internet Shopping

The grocery shopping is done; just got to pick up the prime rib tomorrow at the butcher's and a few bits that the grocery store was all out of and we are good to go. Marc is wrapping a couple presents (think those might be for me) and we've got a few more to do.

Jackie had the day off yesterday, so Abigail spent the day with me but it was all a bit of a whirlwind. The supermarket was jammed so doing the shopping took an extra long time. We had lunch at Starbuck's and then went off to see Sebastian as a spider in his production of Sleeping Beauty. I swear I thought it was Cinderella and it was a good 10 minutes before I realised I had the wrong fairy tale. I was soooooo confused. He was a spectacular spider despite missing 2 out of 5 days rehearsal. That's his mate, Lewis, standing behind him. Sorry about the red eye but my camera doesn't seem to cope with zoom and flash simultaneously.

We've had a snafu with some internet ordered pressies and I have to say I am not impressed. A few years back (the year Abigail was born) we ordered some VERY important pressies for Sebastian online (using When they hadn't showed up and we were down to 5 days before Christmas I called them to chase. They informed me that the item was out of stock and would be delivered to me in mid-January. I explained that wouldn't work and it would have been very nice of them to have let me know when I ordered or in lieu of that, when they realised they couldn't deliver it by Christmas. Surely these people realise the purpose of gift orders in November/December tend to be for holiday pressies. Needless to say, I have never ordered a critical item from them and will go out of my way to see if I can find what I do want to order from somewhere else.

Well, it happened again with Now this catalogue always has loads of nifty little creative stuff, particularly the gifts for girls part. Well, I ordered loads of stuff from them several weeks ago. Yesterday I got a letter in the post saying they were having trouble with my credit card authorisation. So I rang them because I knew there shouldn't be a problem. I gave them 3 different credit card numbers to try and the lady kept saying none of them are working. When I offered my husbands card number, she told me she doubted that would work. I suggested maybe it was their system that was broken and not my credit cards. She said she doubted that. So I hung up. I called my credit card companies. All of them agreed there was no problem with my cards and in fact confirmed that they hadn't even tried to make a charge against the card. So I rang them back. I spoke to a different lady who managed to put the order through but given it is Friday before Christmas Monday, there is not a snowball's chance in hell the items will arrive in time for Christmas. Lot of good the order does me. So let this be a warning to you, don't use them. I will not be using them again.

I must say this internet shopping isn't all it's cracked up to be. You order and then hold your breath. Many US sites won't take credit cards from foreign banks or worse still, they require information like State, zip code, and phone numbers in US format only. Many UK sites won't allow for US shoppers to send to addresses here. What is up with these businesses? I've got friends all over the world and rather than use the postal/courier option which is unpredictable and accident prone, not to mention really really bad for the environment, I would like to buy them something from an internet site. I want the reality of the global economy not the promise of it. Even amazon requires that I have an account in and .com. The only eShop that seems to be dealing with these issues is eBay. Thank god for eBay. Have you used the facility for transferring money? It is a beautiful thing! Minimal commission and now my sister went out and did all the shopping for me! Thanks Sis!!!!!

Friday 22 December 2006


Three years ago today I was laying on an osteopath table who was trying to ensure that the little baby girl inside me was pointing in the right direction (head down) in preparation for her arrival sometime in mid-late January. The Christmas shopping was all done and I had just finished the grocery shopping which had been dutifully stored in the fridge at home. I was all ready for the holiday and would worry about the birth of our 2nd child after the new year. I still needed to get the cot down from the attic, wash the hand-me-down baby clothes, and get nappies. But I had lots of time and wasn't as prepared for the 2nd as I had been with my first.

In advance of Sebastian's birth, we had nappies galore, the cot had been set up when I was only 6 months pregnant, and the clothes were stacked clean in little baskets according to size and colour. My hospital bag was packed at 7 months and I checked and rechecked the contents daily. My mother had arrived 4 weeks before my delivery date and we sat in the garden in the unusual sweltering heat of May in England. Seb arrived in the world just a few days prior to his scheduled date of arrival and not a moment too soon.

Hence my rather relaxed attitude towards Abigail's arrival. So there I was having my shoulder massaged when I realised that water was gushing from my nethers (ok not some much gushing as dripping - like when you barely turn on a faucet). I announced with some embarrassment that either my waters had broken or I had peed all over the osteopath table. Luckily the osteo was rather experienced in these sorts of things having had 4 children of his own. He announced with a little too much excitement that he thought my waters had broken.

Now the brain goes into over drive......I knew from all those books I'd read and classes I'd attended that I would either go into labour on my own in the next 24 hours or they would have to go in and get her. "But it is 3 days before Christmas" I wailed. Prophetically, Marc's Uncle John has predicted month's before that this baby would arrive before 2004 was upon us and his son, Simon (who had been chosen as Abigail's godfather), was born on Christmas Eve.

Marc delivered me to the house where I raced around like a mad cow packing a hospital bag and barking orders at him to get baby things from the attic. We fell into bed that night certain that labour pains would awaken our sleep in the night. Imagine our surprise when we awoke the next morning and felt absolutely no grumblings. I was certain I had made a mistake and the moisture running down my legs was just one of those oddities of pregnancy that your mother (or any other woman) never tell you about because if they told you everything about pregnancy the human race would cease to procreate.

We had a pre-scheduled appointment at the hospital on 23rd December to check the position of Abigial since she had been transverse (sideways) since mid-pregnancy and the doctors wanted to check she had gotten herself in delivery position. She had, YEAH!!! Oh but wait, where has all the amniotic fluid gone? Hmmmm, I whispered, "I think my waters might have broken." "When?" the tech asked. Uh, "yesterday" I replied. Well, "you need to see the consultant" she instructed me. "When?" I asked. "Now" she commanded.

The consultant was very calm and assured me that if I thought my waters had broken yesterday but I still wasn't having contractions chances are I was mistaken. She said there was a test to confirm that either I was going to mad or I was going to have a baby. Much to the consultants surprise, I was right, I was going to have a baby NOW! You see, here in England, apparently, the patients are rarely right (or so the doctors think)! The test confirmed my waters had broken, I had very little fluid left and the baby needed to come out within the next 24 hours.

"But it is 2 days before Christmas" I wailed. They didn't care. I was handed my medical files and told to go to another hospital (do not pass go, do not collect $200) except to get my bags which I had optimistically left at home. Trouble was we had Sebastian. Not that he was any trouble. He'd sat with us through the scan and the test and was quite happily picking up all sorts of germs around the hospital. He wasn't going to be so happy for long. My mother wasn't due to arrive until mid-Jan. Marc's mum was on the Isle of Wight and we couldn't reach her by phone as she was working. We'd left numerous messages which she hadn't picked up yet. So the call went out to Uncle John and Auntie Mary who duly took Sebastian off with them.

I spent a rather tense night in the hospital coaching the young girl in the bed next to me through her labour pains. She was all alone and had never read a book or gone to delivery classes so she had no idea what was going on or what to expect. I could only imagine how scared she was (or maybe completely oblivious). I kept hoping that my contractions would start, like maybe if I got really close to her I could catch them (like a contagious disease). But my contractions never started.

Christmas Eve arrived. The doctor arrived. Then Abigail arrived. You see the whole c-section process is very quick and relatively painless. She was the most beautiful little girl in the whole world. I had no idea who had my son or where. But I had my daughter and she was an angel.

Abigail wasn't well and had a bit of grunting and some blood sugar problems. They rushed her off to the special care baby unit. The lowest depth of my misery in life was the night I had to leave her in the hospital. I thought someone had cut out my heart. We returned just 3 hours later to feed her but it seemed like a lifetime. She came home with us on 29 Dec 2003.

Marc's Christmas dinner was an out of date sandwich from a garage down the road from the hospital. Santa came late that year for Seb (and Abigail). Marc's mum arrived after Abigail did. My mother arrived in mid-Jan. All my grocery shopping went to waste and we had quite a mess to clean out of the fridge.

Abigail will be 3 on Christmas Eve. She is a wonderful little girl and very independent. She is a bit eccentric and walks to the beat of her own drummer (always carrying a handbag). She loves to dance and sing. She has a very creative imagination. She loves shoes! And we love her! I am so proud to be her mother

Weather Here & There

The fog in the southeast of England, particularly where I live is so thick we can cut it with a knife. OK, not literally but nearly. I can't see beyond the garage from the house. I've tried to photograph it and have been wholly unsuccessful. You ever tried to capture fog in photos? Domestic flights and most European flights out of Heathrow have been cancelled for several days and there is no sign of this fog lifting. All the progress that man has made and fog stops us in our tracks! I fear many travellers will be spending Christmas in an airport.

On the other side of the Atlantic my family is dealing with one of the worst snowstorms in Colorado history. The drifts are piled high, cars are buried and doorways are blocked. Denver International Airport is closed (albeit a much smaller airport in terms of traffic through compared to Heathrow).

Now before you go and get all romantic on me (or book your skiing holiday) and think this is a good thing stop for a minute and think. Emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire engines, police) can't get through. Trucks can't deliver goods to grocery stores so even if you can walk to the store, the shelves are empty. People die of carbon monoxide poisoning because the vents out of their roofs get blocked. Power lines fall. Go to Do a search on Colorado and snow, sort by recent and check out the extent of the damage. Makes our fog look like child's play.

PS Whilst at flickr - check out my photos (link in Family Links to left). I've started to move some of my photos out of snapfish as some people were struggling when snapfish implemented a site.

Thursday 21 December 2006

Plan & God Laughs

I've always got a plan. Things go according to plan: all is good. Things go not according to plan: mental meltdown is imminent. I guess that is why I ended up with the type of job I've got. Let's just say this week's plan isn't going so well.

Sebastian is still out with a bit of a temperature. Seb doesn't typically sit still for long and he must be not feeling a bit down because he just won't move. Or I could be a cynic and decide this is all a ploy to get to watch unlimited television. I remember being a kid once. Ah, but how is he faking the 102 temperature? Maybe he's not faking it just to scupper my plans. Basically, I've done no groceries shopping so we may be having porridge for Christmas dinner. And I've got three (count them 3) presents (all for Seb) that I still have to buy and I can't take him with me and I can't leave him at home and I can't shoot him.....oh, wait that's women.......

Last night was another company Christmas doo. This one was with all the people in my new group (all those that work for my new boss). When I turned up for the presentations during the day I was informed I would be doing the presentation....I had never seen the presentation. Thankfully, one of my team leaders did it for me and he did a great job. All the presentations were interesting and funny. It was great to see so much passion and enthusiasm from the people you work with! I came home and quickly changed into party clothes and went back out for an evening of dining, drinking and dancing. I got to know quite a few colleagues I didn't know before or know so well. It was good fun......right up until the point I fell out of my stupid party shoes, ended up on the floor with my dress up around my waist and banged my knee hard on a metal bar. What most disturbed me was that no one came to help me up for quite some time. When I did manage to get up I limped away, called a cab and went straight home. My knee is swollen this morning and looking like a huge bruise will be developing. Well, there goes my exercise regime I had planned.....or that might just be a convenient excuse!

Abigail went off to Jackie's (her childminder) this morning all dress up in her party clothes. Jackie is having a Christmas party for children she looks after now and in previous years. She loves the faux fur coat which was a hand-me-down from her cousin Audrey. She wants to wear it all the time. She is very excited about this whole present thingy and was very proud of the gift for Jackie. Also, Father Christmas is an excellent stick to beat them with.....I mean encourage good behaviour! Nothing like the threat of calling Santa just 5 days before the big night!

Bailey is growing up fast. He has more than doubled in size in the four weeks (or so) that we've had him. He has destroyed one corner of my wall in the kitchen and a basket with my tea towels in it. Dog owners assure me this is a phase and will only last a few months. I hope so or we are back to the whole shooting theme again.
This time of year is always very busy for Marc's business. Loads of people buy computers for gifts and he is busy every evening setting them up and then delivering them the next day. He also has a number of corporate clients and all of them it seems has got email problems this week. He's already got some appointments scheduled for next week which he is supposed to have off. Let's face it: this is one of the greatest challenges when you own your own business. No work means no money. And the key differentiator of Marc's service is his responsiveness and personality. Basically, if we want to keep our corporate clients happy (which we do) he must work!

Wednesday 20 December 2006

No Sleep then Sleep

One of the advantages of having family living in a different time zone is that you can call them when it is 1:00 in the morning your time. They are surprised to hear from you and I can speak without the interruptions caused by a husband, 2 children and a puppy. Of course, my sister, not being accustomed to speaking to me at that time of day (her time), just had too much to do (after speaking to me for an hour) so I was left to my own devices. I watched a couple of television shows I had recorded, caught up on some of my magazine reading and read some of my book. The downside is, well, it means I was not asleep. I couldn't get to sleep until about 4 this morning. Not sure worries, no long lists of things to do, no heartburn.....just not sleepy until, of course, this morning when I needed to get out of bed.

Now some may ask yourself, if I am on holiday why in the world do I need to get out of bed? That is easy. My son, Sebastian, is burning up with fever. Seb doesn't get ill very often and when he does, it is bad. He is currently sound asleep in bed with a fever of over 102. I watch him sleep and worry. That is my job today!

Out goes the to do list for this morning and of all the days of my holiday this is the one day that I needed to go to work. Not work exactly but my team is having a Christmas meeting this afternoon following by dinner, drinks and dancing which I was hoping to attend. Hopefully, Marc will be able to arrange his schedule so I can do that. But I have to say leaving a sick child is one of the hardest choices a mother makes. No matter how great a daddy is, mummy's kisses just seem to work a whole bunch better.....or at least that what I've been told.

This is one of the most extraordinary changes in your life when you become a mother. Your needs, desires, priorities go flying straight out a window and the world stops spinning. Your purpose in life is so clear. I have some little person who is looking to me to make it right and whilst I can't take it away, I can certainly make it feel a bit better. I get so much satisfaction out of knowing that this little boy is glad that I am here and right now, in this moment, pretty much thinks I hang the moon. I can do this!

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Catch Up

Some of you keep asking me how in the world I find time to do this. To be honest, it doesn't take all that much time. OK, setting it up was a pain in the backside. I felt really stupid as I couldn't even understand the instructions. I had to learn the whole blogger language first. But I did figure it out after just a couple days. I would say the set up took about 6 hours over 3 days to get it looking the way I wanted it. I am always discovering new things to include and hopefully you will have watched it evolve.

My daily posts take about 10-15 minutes to write. I have some already written and stored in the draft box just waiting for the right time to publish. Others just write themselves when I sit down in the morning. So don't be afraid to start your own!

Also, be sure to check out the family links on the left hand side. These are links that we as a family look at all the time! Finally, at the bottom of the posts, you can subscribe to have my posts sent to you via email. Just click on subscribe and enter your email address. My sister is insisting it isn't working so if you have problems, let me know.

Sunday was a big day of rest for the family. In case you couldn't tell it from the blog, we had been very busy. Sunday we spent the day catching up on "things" in and around the house. Sunday night was going to be a night in front of the telly but we got the most pleasant of invites over to the Austin's home. Sandy and Neil are the parents of Seb's school mate, Aisha and Dharma who will start Nursery will Abigail in September 2007. They had invited some other parents from the school and some of their other friends round to theirs for a few drinks and delicious nibbles. They invited us to come as we were and we did (sweat pants and all). The children played and the adults chatted and drank. It was such a relaxing and fun evening. I loved the spontaneity of it! Thanks to Sandy and Neil for the wonderful night!

Yesterday was back to the whirlwind of taxi service for the children. Sebastian is participating in a "Get Up & Go" programme at school. They are doing a production of Cinderella at the end of the week and he tells me he is going to be a spider. Hmmmmm, I don't remember a spider in Cinderella.....perhaps this is a bit like the Native American Indian in the Nativity story. His face was all painted when I picked him up and he had done some swimming so he was exhausted.

Marc and I finished our Christmas shopping after a particularly panicked moment when it became obvious one coveted gift was in fact sold out and no where to be found. Luckily, my star of a husband found it online!!!! Now I just have to get busy, my least favourite part of the holiday season!

Sunday 17 December 2006

I Am Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Not me specifically, but me collectively. The sheer fact that I've started this blog has included me in the category of those referenced by Time magazine.,9171,1569514,00.html?aid=434&from=o&to=http%3A//

OK, so hardly anyone ever reads my blog. Even my family (who should have the highest interest) is sadly disinterested. Very few people leave comments. Even fewer read the comments I leave in response to their comments. I write everyday. No one reads.

I have read (on someone else's blog) that most blogs die after the first post, ie they are never updated again. Now this I don't get. I worked so hard to get the template right and actually figure out how to do the whole thing that I can't imagine putting in the work and then just walking away. Equally, a large number of blogs are abandoned after the first month. OK, so this I get. If a tree falls in the forest, does it matter, if no one is going to use the wood? If I write a blog and no one reads it, what is the point? Well, if I was philosophical I suppose it could be looked at like writing a journal that no one reads until you die. But what is the point in that?

There has been some upside to this whole blogging thing. I am now very conscious to ensure I take photos of our everyday life so I have something to show for it on the blog. I do upload and categorise these photographs which is far more than I used to do. I was lucky to remember the camera for events like yesterday's visit with Santa and would certainly have left them on the memory card for quite a long time if I didn't feel I had a blog responsibility.

And I keep telling myself I am creating a record of my family's life which in later years my children's children may find fascinating reading (or not as the case may be). Probably by then the technology would have moved in so far that no one will actually be able to access this blog. Remember those old 9mm film strips.....heck, who actually owns a VCR nowadays?

But, hey, I feel good about myself because I am keeping up with the revolution. I am reading all sorts of other people's blog and learning about all those things I don't yet know. I wouldn't have even found out about the being a person of the year so early if I had read I even figured out how to get my blog indexed on Google and technorati. If you enter our family name on Google you get my blog. No entirely sure how many people will enter our name but how much fun am I having? Besides if I hadn't done this, I wouldn't be Time Person of the Year.

Breakfast with Santa

Yesterday the children had breakfast with Santa. OK, so he didn't actually eat with us, more like we went and gave him our lists after we ate out breakfast. This was the very first time that Sebastian even came close to the old bearded man. In previous years he would scream blue murder if we asked him to get anywhere near the jolly old elf. Yesterday, he was quite happy to jump up next to him and hand him a rather long list (that he had typed up on the computer!). Abigail was a little shy and only went up because he big brother did. She stuck to him like glue and didn't want to say much at first. But then she got right into the whole spirit of the season. When Santa asked Abigail what she would like him to bring, she replied "TOYS!". Now those are expectations which can be met!

A quick tour round the toy shops to make sure the elves had delivered aforementioned list items, we finished off our Christmas shopping. Abigial & Sebastian certainly got into the swing of the whole shopping thing and really like visiting Hawkins Bazaar in Windsor which has loads of toys & trinkets and things you didn't even know you needed or wanted. This kept them entertained for quite some time.

Off we went to the supermarket to pick up some nibbles for our "Manor Cottages" Christmas doo planned for that evening. For those of you who are unfamiliar with where we live, we are number 3 in a terrace of 4 cottages built in the middle of some fields sometime in the late 1890s. We have the results of the 1905 census and the houses are certainly there then. To the back of us is the crown estate (ie Queen Elizabeth owns it and it is part of the ground of Windsor Castle). to the front of us is English Heritage preservation land (it is believed that the first Windsor Castle (pre 1077) was built near here. It is currently used as horse pasture and is owned by some people who live down the road. What is means is that the 4 families living in these cottages are close. We have only each other for neighbours. Gill lives alone in number 4. Simon & Emma live in number 2 with their infant (3 mo) daughter, Helena. The Gilmour family live at number 1 with 2 of their 3 children, Ross & Harry. Hayley has recently moved out with her boyfriend, Nathan, and their infant son, Tristan.

Gill made some great mulled wine and put on a fabulous feast. We provided the sushi platters, Si & Emma provided some cheese. Jill made a fabulous looking dessert although it must be said I don't remember eating any of it!

Every year we get together for some drinks and nibbles and exchange Christmas gifts and play some fairly competitive games, eg Pictionary. Gills grandchildren, twins Jemma & Tom, joined our festivities. Tom & Gill won the wicked game of Pictionary with a particularly good guess of Tom's producing "pole".

Saturday 16 December 2006

A Special Time

Once you have a second child, you very rarely get to spend alone time with either child. So yesterday was a very special day for Seb and I. After the carol service, Uncle John (who attended the carol service with me), Seb and I went for some hot chocolate/tea (depending on your age) to congratulate Seb on a job well done during the Autumn Term. I had received his very first (official) school report. And other than a few complaints about his "chatty" tendencies he received great remarks. We toasted him with our tea cups and told him how proud I was of him. He was well chuffed!

Then we spent the afternoon doing arts and crafts at home, just him and me. This was special because usually Abigail is there interrupting our every move and requiring loads of supervision. Seb's creations were absolutely beautiful (although the waiting for paint to dry, etc. was a test of his patience. His chain of angels although he will tell you he needs to draw on their hair and do the back! There are also a picture of robins, and a rather fetching stripey camel and the winter trees is gorgeous.
When Abigail got home she joined in the fun and made some of her own art work. A bit more abstract perhaps but no less beautiful. I love watching them create!

Friday 15 December 2006

St George's Chapel Christmas Service

I heard the voices of angels singing this morning. Promise!

Sebastian's school is also the choir school for St. George's Chapel which is inside the grounds of Windsor Castle and is the burial place of King Henry VIII, one of his wives, Jane Seymour, and many other monarchs and historical figures. The first thing that strikes you are the 400 or so odd steps that you must climb up the side of the hill to get to the chapel. It is a strak reminder that this iss a fortified royal palace still today (ok, if you don't count the partygoer who snuck in to Prince William's birthday party a few years back up these very steps!).

The chapel itself is stunning both inside and out. You almost feel like you've stepped on to a Hollywood film set. But this is so very real! We have the privilege every year of hearing the choir sing and never is it as special as it is at Christmas. The Choir sang both the Nightingale Carol and the Sussex Carol and it was so sweet. They work very hard for this performance and it was reflected in the exquisite display they put on this morning.

I may be a bit partial but the sweetest sounds heard this morning were from the Pre-Prep (Reception-Year 2) which obviously included Sebastian as they sang the first verse of Away in A Manger. Of course, they were a bit ahead of the organ but who cares? They sang professionally and with great care and attention.

One of my favourite moments in the service is when the 3 wee wise men present their gifts to the clergy whilst the congregation sing We Three Kings of Orient Are. These wise men are very serious and you can tell that they practised very hard to take on this bit of theatrical performance.

The Bidding at the beginning of the service contained a solid piece of advice, regardless of your faith or lack thereof. The Right Reverend reminded us to "let it be our care and delight to pause a while, and to wonder in this ancient place at the mighty works of God;" if your God is nature itself or a heavenly being watching over us, it is wondrous indeed.

Thursday 14 December 2006

The Rest of the Family

This is Murphy, our cat. He is a rescue cat we got from the RSPCA almost 2 years ago. He was about 8 months old when we got him so we reckon he's not quite 3. His previous owners had decided to move house without taking him and two other cats. They had left them behind in an empty flat with no food or water. No one knows how long they were left alone but Murphy had a rather scrapped up nose when we got him probably from trying to lick the condensation off the window. Murphy was a replacement cat for Kylie who went missing the week between Christmas and New Year. We're not quite sure what happened to him but I have some suspicions that these boys who often lurk in the fields around our house using their dogs to chase and kill rabbits might have harmed him. Although Kylie was a bit of an evil cat (eg he used to grab Seb's head claws out when he was a baby crawling around) I was devastated. When I saw Murphy in the the cage at the RSPCA, I fell in love instantly. Murphy is the sweetest of all cats. He's cuddly and talks to us and is ever so good with the children. He's never not once hissed, scratched, or clawed any children or furniture. He is even getting on really well with Bailey. Although, there is a bit of "what were you thinking" looks being shot our way.

Finally, this is Frank. We used to have Frank and Toby. In fact, we used to have quite a few goldfish. Seb was given a tank and a pair of goldfish for his 3rd birthday after being captivated by the tank at his Popa's house. What were we thinking? The first thing Seb did was pour his milk into the tank thinking if it was good for him it would be good for the fish. Sound reasoning. Bad result. We went through 5 sets of goldfish before Frank and Toby arrived and lived to tell the tale. They had lasted for over 2 years. But Toby bit the dust, or went swimming belly up, a few months back when we changed the water. Funny thing though when we went back to the tank to remove Toby, he was gone. Frank ate him. Strange explanation but the only one we can think of. Murphy has no access to the tank. And Toby was certainly in no shape to jump out of the tank. So in a way, Toby lives Frank.....literally!
Last night Marc took Murphy to a Puppy Party. OK, so now our pets have social schedules. The hope is that a properly socialised pet will be a calmer, less agressive dog. We have quite a few friends who have jumped off the cliff and acquired puppies over the last few months. I am thinking I should maybe host a puppy party in the local park. Have I lost my mind? There are children dying all over the world of disease, genocide, famine and I'm hosting a puppy party. I feel frivolous......and fortunate.

Wednesday 13 December 2006

A Family Fed

Just for the record, I cooked a leg of lamb with roast potatoes and broccoli tonight. Dinner was served on time, the lamb was cooked properly, and the potatoes were done. Phew, crisis of confidence averted!

Chrsitmas Play 2006

The highlight of the day yesterday was Sebastian's Christmas Play at school. He was a Native American Indian. OK, so you might say you don't remember there being a Native American Indian in Bethlehem but the story was that the angels of heaven were sent to all the corners of the world to find the best place for the son of God to be born. One of the places visited was a tribe of North American Indians. The smallest angel got left behind and fell asleep in a stable. God figured if the stable was good enough for his smallest angel, it was good enough for his son. But first we were treated to songs and dances from all corners of the world: China, Switzerland, Spain, Hawaii, Scotland. The children were fantastic. You could tell how hard they had worked. They knew all the words to their songs and sang them loudly. They knew all the steps to their dances. And the looks of concentration on their faces made all the parents so proud. I cried when we were reminded that the birth of Jesus is meant to bring hope to all mankind. Even if you are not a Christian, it was a touching reminder that this time of year is a time of hope: hope for peace, hope for love, hope for joy.

The Christmas performance was quickly followed by Sebastian's ballet recital. He is the only boy in the group and he only just started this term whilst the girls have been doing ballet for the last 2 years. He loves it and is not bothered by the fact that he is the only boy. He wasn't as graceful as the girls but I can't help but think that everyone is learning a lesson from him. He reminds everyone that there is a boy in the group and that he doesn't hold his skirt but puts his hands on his hips. I think I need to work with him on his positions but as long as he is having fun! Which by the kisses he was giving Amy it was clear he was enjoying himself.

Little Abigail was dragged from pillar to post. Since Jackie was ill, she went to all the performances with me and was desparate to join in particularly at the ballet recital. She kept running up to the children performing and I kept chasing her down. When we drove home from the ballet recital both children fell fast asleep in the car even though it was only 4:30 in the evening.

My Christmas shopping is nearly finished. I am extremely frustrated with American retailers making it nigh impossible for anyone outside of America to use their websites. One customer service representative on could not believe I didn't have an American bank account. She asked me why everyone didn't have one. I felt myself distinctly getting out of the Christmas spirit as the ignorance of her statement washed over me. Luckily, my sister is bailing me out of a bad situation.....thank god for PayPal! An easy way to send money anywhere in the world with a few clicks.

Today should be a day of rest. I've got a few errands to run and pressies to wrap. Maybe I'll even take a nap.....ah, but that might be too hopeful!

Tuesday 12 December 2006

A blogger learns

So I am still getting the hang of this and despite having reviewed my post from yesterday several times I didn't notice that the pic of the quilt block didn't appear as planned. So I will try this again.

We are always on the lookout for good Mexican food in England which is a bit like always being on the lookout for water in the Sahara. I had been told by a few American women to try Pachanga in Marlow. So for Marc's birthday dinner off we went. The nachos were good. The beef fajitas weren't bad although they were very stingy on the salsa. Marc enjoyed his enchiladas. The menu was not very child friendly and there was not a separate children's menu. Seb and Abigail split a chicken and chips dish which they both seemed to enjoy. They were distracted, however, by the temptation (homemade chocolate birthday cake) that awaited them at home. This in no way shape or form compares to those lovely cake creations that my sister makes and I am well aware the writing looks like a 9 year old did it. I wish I could blame Sebastian but this is entirely my doing! I have it on good authority that it is "the best chocolate cake ever, Mummy."

Today, Abigail's childminder, Jackie, is ill so my little princess is home with me. It is also Sebastian's Christmas Play so get out the tissues. I have dutifully ensured that all the batteries to the various cameras are charged and the memory is cleared so I should not have the same crisis as I did at the the Christingle Service when my camera battery went dead at the first note of the first song.

Also, not only is this my first blog to write but for many of you this is the first blog you've read. It is kind of evolving into something like a journal I used to keep before I had my 2 children, 1 husband, 1 dog, 1 cat, 1 fish, 2 houses, etc..... Please don't forget to visit often as I update it every day (or have so far - not sure how this will play out once I go back to work and am no longer a lady of leisure!). Leave comments about what I write. Sebastian checks the comments when he gets home from school - keeps him reading!!! If you write a comment chances are I respond back so check the comment strings.....kinda like a written dialogue. I am enjoying this and hope you are at least half as much.

Monday 11 December 2006

33 Today!!!!


Today is Marc's 33rd birthday. We sang happy birthday to him and he opened his presents after breakfast this morning. Abigail gave him a Barbour rainproof cap. Seb gave him some brown suede gloves and I gave him a sage green wax jacket. We are planning a dinner of enchiladas (his request)! 1 December birthday down, 1 more to go......

Yesterday was one of those days where nothing goes according to plan. Seb and Jamie went to Seb's riding lesson which is normally on Saturday morning but we had moved it to Sunday so Jamie could go and watch. This obviously confused Lucy, the riding instructor who didn't turn up. It was cold and the boys got into a bit of a disagreement over whether or not Pokemons can get trophies or medals - this is important stuff here! So Marc just walked (frog marched) them back home (no riding) so they could warm up!
I have been working on a quilt all year. I joined this "Block of the Month" Club. Basically, you pay £15 in January and then every 1st Saturday of the month you return to the shop with the previous month's block and they give you the patterns, templates, instructions and all the fabric. You just need to supply the needles, thread and time. This is the block for November and I went to pick up the supplies for December (the last block!) and the shop was closed. The shop door displayed hours of Tuesday-Saturday 10-5:30 but I know that they used to show Tuesday-Sunday because we've been there on Sunday before. I am annoyed that the hours have changed! Will have to wait until tomorrow to pick up December......also need to buy the shashing and all the other stuff to put it all together!
Then we tried to grab some lunch at McDonald's and there was no place to park so we sat in the car for 15 minutes waiting. Then we went in, ordered lunch, and there was no place to sit. So our food got cold while we lurched over people lingering over their meal packaging and chatting as if they weren't in a fast food restaurant. We inhaled our meal and very politely moved on as quickly as possible. Of course by that time it didn't matter as there were 10 other tables that has emptied. I am sure this had nothing to do with me and my evil eye.
By this time it was getting quite late and I didn't have the energy to do the leg of lamb I had planned to do for dinner but I had nothing else so I thought we'll just pop into the grocery store on the way home and grab nibbly stuff for dinner (cheese, biscuits, fresh bread, dips, chips). We call it a carpet picnic because we eat in the living room. Given our luck so far that day and the time of year, I expected the grocery store to be packed but it wasn't bad. Unfortunately, my children were. They were running around like I had pumped them full of sugar before going. Then the checkout clerk was a comedian (or thought he was) and kept mumbling then laughing (not sure if he was talking to me or himself because I couldn't understand a word he was saying).
This means that everything I was meant to do yesterday has to get done today (except the quilt which will have to wait until tomorrow) and instead of getting busy I'm writing this blog. Ah, procrastination!

Sunday 10 December 2006

Saturday Circus

My family has one goldfish named Frank, one cat named Murphy, one dog named Baily, Sebastian, Abigail, Marc & I. Given this, Saturday's are a bit of a mad house and yesterday was no exception. Seb went to a birthday party for Timothy (a school mate) who turned 6 in the morning. Marc & Abi picked up a Puppy Kong (which is the chew toy for puppies - obviously - and is supposed to keep the spaz from eating my kitchen cupboards). It is the cylinder object with slots in it to put in treats which the puppy can't quite get to so he just chews and chews and chews. It seems to be working but imagine how frustrated he must be. I hope this isn't doing psychological damage. Do they have dog therapists? Are they expensive? Can I insure for this?

I went to a fashion show (of sorts) with Auntie Mary. The designer is a woman from Kathmandu, Nepal and the show was held in the home of a friend of Mary's cousin. The house was an old stately home that has been broken into a series of homes no less impressive than I imagine the original home would have been. The designer was very theatrical when showing her clothes designs and the fabrics are stunning. All the clothes are made to measure. I got a couple of Christmas pressies for myself including a cashmere cardigan in grey with orange and red stripes. I've never owned a cashmere sweater before. I feel very fortunate. I also got a reversible silk jacket in brown & turquoise/teal. Mary bought this grey and black dress that fit her perfectly so she could take it home with her. It looks amazing on her. My goodies won't be delivered until after Christmas so something to look forward to in 2007!

Sebastian's friend Jamie arrived to sleepover last night. This is Jamie's first sleepover and he wasn't feeling very well on Saturday morning. We served up Spaghetti Bolagnese, garlic bread, and a bit of green salad. Chocolate Crepes were a big hit for dessert. Abigail was desperate to join in the fun but the boys were having none of that and kept thwarting her at every door. But at bedtime, Abigail fell asleep in under 2 minutes. Jamie & Seb didn't go quite as easily. They crawled into the same bed and read (by flashlight) their Pokemon books. Seb was next to fall asleep (in Jamie's bed) and after a few trips downstairs to visit Marc & I, Jamie did finally drift off under the watchful eye of several lights on! He was a champ. I can only imagine how scary it must be to spend the night away from your mum & dad for the very first time in a stranger's house, in a stranger's bed. I mean what if you gotta go wee in the middle of the night? what is monsters invade the house? what if I have a bad dream? who will protect me? I still get scared on my own sometimes. I'm pleased Jamie decided to trust us to take care of him!

I've gotten myself very organised on the Christmas pressie front now that the shopping for the December birthdays are out of the way. It really is inconvenient of Marc & Abigail to have December birthdays but not a lot can be done about that. I always struggle to start the Christmas shopping until the birthday shopping is out of the way! I've got my list and may be very brave (or stupid) and actually try to do some shopping today.

I keep meaning to tell everyone I underwent a bit of a transformation a few weeks back and got my hair coloured and cut. I've had that boring blond bob for ages and really needed a change. I went to a woman named Emma, whose children go to St George's. She does quite a few of the mums at school and I love their hair so I decided to give it a go. And my normal hairdresser seems to have gone bankrupt and disappeared......besides he was the one who kept giving me the blonde bob! I was so pleased with the results. Blonde, Toffee, Red, Short, Very Short, did I say short? Oh, and spiky. How hip and trendy, am I? No more mummy frumpy for me. Now if I can only figure out how to make it work as well as she did! I'm still getting used to it! Emma's shop is The Colour House in Bagshot (sorry to those in the US, but she might be worth a trip!).

Saturday 9 December 2006

Culinary Catastrophy

I am not a gourmet cook and I don't pretend to be. I read fabulous recipes in magazines and books but rarely can be bothered to find the precise ingredients. Honestly, I saw this recipe the other day that asked for champagne vinegar. I could spend the next week scouring every supermarket between Windsor and London and still not find it. I could order it online perhaps, although even that is dubious. I then read every recipe in the article and realised that every single one needed an obscure (ie not in the normal pantry of a normal household) ingredient so I threw the recipes out rather than try them.

I've got a few trusted cookbooks that I use over and over and always go back to my Betty Crocker cookbook that is over 20 years old. My Grandmother gave it to me when I first moved out on my own and you can find just about anything you need. It is a small paperback version so it can be hard to read and keep open. I once ventured into Borders and thought I would buy the same cookbook (same recipes) in one of those useful ring binders that stay open and you can wipe the pages clean. What I found what the ring binder with a whole bunch of "updated, modern" recipes which are of no use to me and ask for some of those aforementioned ingredients. I will stick with my yellowed, stained paperback version.

Not that the cookbook helped me last was Friday night and typically we get a take-away/delivery (pizza-children's favourite, Chinese-my favourite, curry-Marc's favourite). Since I am not working I was finding the justification of having a really stressful week a bit harder to make so I decided to do a roast chicken which shouldn't be all that hard: 1) put chicken in roasting tin 2) sprinkle with salt/pepper 3) put half lemons and some fresh basil in cavity 4) put in oven. I sliced some potatoes and put them in around the chicken figuring they would be nice and baked after 2 hours with the chicken. Now a whole chicken is a bit much for just the 4 of us so I rang our neighbour, Gill, who was home early and invited her to join us for a simple dinner. She arrived at 18:30 (a full 2 hours after the chicken was placed in said oven).

The table was set, the children were sitting at the table and I went to remove the chicken when to my horror I realised it wasn't even close to being done and the potatoes were raw. I turned up the heat on the over which is one of those Aga thingies which I swore I would replace when we moved in but I have now got this strange competitive attachment to it. I won't let it beat me! Marc suggested we microwave the chicken.....we have one of those combi microwaves that browns but I've never bothered to figure out how to use it. So I let him get on with fixing the chicken, I put the potatoes in another dish and moved the apple crumble to the top shelf of the oven next to the potatoes hoping I could stall the guest and starving children.

After 15 minutes in the microwave, I put the chicken on the table. As Marc cut in we realised the middle was still a bit undercooked. The potatoes were still raw. At least the broccoli was cooked properly and the Red Salad (chopped tomatoes/red onion/red pepper/feta with a vinegar/olive oil dressing) was good. We gave the children the outside cooked part and split the legs and wings amongst ourselves.

I then remembered the crumble in the oven. I figured if the chicken could be in the oven for 2 hours and still be raw, the crumble was fine. I was wrong. The top of the crumble was burnt to a crisp. We sort of scrapped this off, poured on loads of custard (which didn't hide the fact I spilled the nutmeg in the apples and was hoping no one would notice).

Gill went home and no doubt had to cook herself another meal. I've promised to make it up to her. Soup and BLT sandwiches, anyone?

Friday 8 December 2006

The Holiday Party Season

The Christmas season is an endless cycle of parties. Typically this consists of everyone getting together (some people you don't like and some you don't know), drinking way too much, dancing when perhaps they shouldn't, eating overpriced, cold, bad food that has been prepared for the 100s of people that have been guilted into coming to the obligatory office christmas doo. Well, not here, I say.

The party season started a bit early for me on 30 Nov with the celebration of the launch of a new company intranet which I project managed the last half of 2006. The team worked very hard and we played very hard. We hired out the top floor of Que Pasa, a bar in Staines. They did great party food and the drinks were free (well, the company paid). We drank and talked (like drunks do) then said a very sad farewell to our fearless leader, Kirk Downey, who is off to greener pastures (or warmer weather, sunnier skies, sandier beaches) in Australia. He will be missed. At 1am I found myself in the town centre of Staines wondering how to get a taxi, I tried ringing and waking my husband but he showed no sympathy for my plight. I finally wandered (aka stumbled) into a mini-cab office (Niall's cabs) and after a 20 minute wait with people dunker than I (scary!) poured myself into a cab and navigated the dark path up to my house. For fome strange reason I couldn't quite get the keys to work but eventually then co-operated and the stairs presented the next greatest challenge. I did finally make it up to the top of the house. I know this because I woke up in bed the next morning. The middle bit is fuzzy.

Friday I didn't feel so well, must have had a bug.....the hangover bug.

Saturday was yet another party. This one was at Stirrups Country House Hotel in Maidens Green and was for the parents of the children in Year 1 at St. George's School. The food was great, it was good value and the company was fun. It was really great to see that the dads are getting to know each other. Thanks goes to Ian Richardson who paid for our table's wine! Also, congratulations to the other St. George's table who won the quiz. They got robbed on the tie break so didn't get the bottle of champagne. But the quiz master's instructions were vague (flawed) and Janet did put the sock on (just on her hand). He didn't specify the foot - without the shoe! Well done, Janet! Babysitting was provided by Uncle John and Auntie Mary. Children were returned without any visible scarring or bruising so all in all a success!

Sunday evening was the PTA Drinks party at St. George's School with entertainment provided by the school choir. What a delight that was! Mrs Day did a fabulous job getting the parents/teachers/staff to participate in the singing of The 12 days of Christmas. The mulled wine was delicious (as always) and the school kitchen did a fine job with the canapes. Babysitting provided by Lucy, Sebastian's riding instructor at Blue Acres Stables on Ham Island. When we got home, Seb's bedroom was tidy. Must have her babysit more often!

Last night was another works doo for the project I worked on for the first half of 2006. Isi did an amazing job finding a venue (Legoland). The theme was "Hot in Havana". The starters and soup were great but the chicken and lemon tart were dire! I may have another career in gambling (with play money) as I cleaned up at the Black Jack table but I think that had more to do with Ranjit's cheating than my skill/luck. The dance music was the best so far and some of the dance moves on the floor will never be seen again (or at least until we consume that much alcohol again!). My favourite part of the evening has to be the bumper cars. Baz and Trevor/Olga were speed demons. My driver (aka Neil) was amazing and I escaped with no permanent whiplash. Made my way home just after midnight and so far this morning I don't seem to have caught the same bug I had last week. These are just a few of the revellers. To see the rest of the photos follow the Photo Library Link on the left.

Granny's Got a Brand New Car

Not exactly brand new but what a bargain this is. It looks a wee bit like a little hot rod (if you close one eye, squint, and stand on our head). It's a Rover of some sort......
They bought the car at a car warehouse (CarGiant) in North London just a few blocks from where the tornado hit London yesterday. The pictures of the damage are astonishing. Check them out at

Luckily, here in the Windsor area we only had monsoon rains and gale winds. No property damage unless you count my honeysuckle trellis at the bottom of the garden.